EU says AstraZeneca has ‘moral’ obligation to fulfil vaccine order

Brussels, Jan 27 (efe-epa).- The European Union on Wednesday said AstraZeneca had a moral obligation to fulfill its vaccine order as a spat over delivery shortages continued amid conflicting reports as to whether a meeting to discuss the shortfall was to go ahead or not.

Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for health and food safety, said: “Let me be crystal clear, the 27 EU member states are united that AstraZeneca needs to deliver on its commitments on our agreements. We are in a pandemic, we lose people every day. These are not numbers, they are not statistics, these are persons with families, friends and colleagues.”

She added: “Pharmaceutical companies and vaccine developers have moral, societal and contractual responsibilities which they need to uphold.”

European Commission spokeswoman Dana Spinant earlier said the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company, which is developing a vaccine with Oxford University, had pulled out of a meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

But sources from AstraZeneca denied this was the case.

“We are meeting with the EU later today,” a company spokesperson told Efe in a statement.

The meeting was due to take place later on Wednesday and would be the third between the company and the EU this week, following two on Monday after AstraZeneca announced, the previous Friday, that it would not meet the pre-order agreed with the bloc.

With some member states coming under public pressure due to slow vaccine rollouts, the Commission has piled on the pressure for the Anglo-Swedish company to explain it might fall short by 60% in the agreed first quarter delivery to the bloc.

The EU has already approved the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and is poised to green-light AstraZeneca on Friday.

In an interview with newspaper group LENA, Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, said the delays were down to the production process and denied that the firm had prioritized sales to third-party clients.

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